Photo credits: The Federal Bureau Of Investigation
On the 14th of May in 1961, the first vehicle to arrive in Anniston, Alabama was a Greyhound bus. The driver was forced to keep going beyond the bus terminal because he was encircled by an irate mob of around 200 white individuals at that location.
The crowd aggressively pursued the bus in their automobiles,. When the bus’s tires eventually exploded, someone detonated a bomb inside of it. The bus was destroyed. The Freedom Riders managed to get off of the burning bus only in time to be mercilessly attacked by members of the white mob that had gathered around them while the vehicle was going up in flames.
The second bus, which was operated by Trailways and headed to Birmingham, Alabama, was similarly targeted by another angry white mob. Several of those members brandished metal pipes. The passengers on this bus were also assaulted. Even though he was aware that the Freedom Riders were going to arrive and that violence was going to await them, Birmingham Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor stated that he did not post any police protection at the station because it was Mother’s Day.
Connor also stated that he knew that violence was going to await the Freedom Riders. The following day, photographs of the burning Greyhound bus and the bloodied riders appeared on the front pages of newspapers throughout the country and around the world. These photographs brought international attention to the cause of the Freedom Riders as well as the state of race relations in the United States.
As a result of the widespread violence, the authorities from CORE were unable to locate a bus driver who would agree to carry the integrated group. As a result, they made the decision to cancel the Freedom Rides. In order to keep the rides going, a group of ten students from Nashville, Tennessee was assembled by Diane Nash.
Nash was formerly an activist associated with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.